Five Student Orientation Ambassadors and their Coordinator chat about what Hart House means to them, their ‘for-you’ role in welcoming students this Fall and what makes them most proud of this job.
Hart House’s Student Orientation Ambassadors represent a guiding light to help new students navigate their path during the first weeks of university.
This year’s Ambassadors, under the leadership of Coordinator Owen (Yueyang) Gao, are keen to pay it forward from their own undergrad experiences. They hope to support students and build lasting connections to Hart House.
Owen, a graduate from the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education with experience working at Hart House before he started as Coordinator, has high aspirations. “I have five amazing Ambassadors. My goal is to work with them, get creative and deliver a great orientation to all incoming students.”
He describes the Ambassadors’ role as “building a bridge” for students to the University and all the activities and resources that Hart House has to offer.
He sits down alongside Ambassadors Said Aoude, Mohammad Doudar, Christina Lin, Raee Sahu and Vivian Zhan to discuss their roles.
Personal Experiences Spurred Desire to be Ambassadors
The Ambassadors had positive personal interactions with Hart House that led them to want to take on this new role.
Vivian, a third-year student in the Faculty of Information who loves camping, said her first experience with Hart House was the Friendly Check In, a specialty service offered int he fall of 2020. She signed up on the website and scheduled a call.
“It was the best call of my life. It literally changed my life.” Here, she gained information about the available resources and signed up to receive emails, which introduced her to podcasts and more.
“It was so nice to feel included,” she recalls. “This is a huge campus but having a contact at Hart House made me feel like I’m not a number at this University. I’m part of this University.”
Having a contact at Hart House made me feel like I’m not a number at this University. I’m part of this University.Vivian Zhan
Raee, a third-year student double majoring in History and English who loves musical theatre, remembers a time when she felt that deep sense of belonging.
She worked backstage at Hart House Theatre, as part of the “Guys and Dolls” production by St. Michael’s College Troubadours, sewing costumes. “It made me feel part of everything. It was really nice.”
Great Ideas about Welcoming
The Ambassadors have some wonderful ideas about how they can make new students feel welcome.
Christina, a third-year student studying at Rotman Commerce who likes sports and reading, says, “It’s important to connect to students on a personal level, to get to know them. Instead of telling them about Hart House, maybe it’ll come up [naturally], in a conversation about music, that there are clubs and committees related to music. That would help engage students, make them feel welcome.”
Said, a pharmacy student who loves travelling and making bad chemistry jokes, agrees. “It’s important in this role to be very supportive, understanding and empathetic. To be present. For some students, it might be their first time in a university setting.”
He adds, “[We should] recognize that some students may need more help in meeting new people and forming those strong connections. That’s what university’s all about.”
‘Hart House for You’ Speaks to Diversity, Inclusion and Community Building
The ‘for-you’ message resonates with the Ambassadors.
Mohammad, a grad student originally from Lebanon, pursuing a Master of Civil Engineering degree, emphasizes diversity and inclusion. “Hart House is a place for you to create everlasting memories. You can meet people from all over the world with different interests and backgrounds. It’s a place where you can build friendships.”
“We will always be here for you when you need a sense of belonging, a positive safe space and a forever home,” says Owen, emphasizing that ‘here for you’ also extends beyond U of T. “There’s a deeper meaning of that message, not only for students but for the larger community members. At Hart House, I learned about community-building programs.” He worked with The 519 Community Centre and BEE [The Brotherhood of Ethnic Excellence] program, for example.
Ambassadors Proud of their Roles
Hart House is a place where you can build friendships.Mohammad Doudar
Mohammad adds, “It will make me very proud to represent U of T, one of the top universities.” Citing Hart House’s strength in building relationships, he underscores, “I’ll be proud to be part of this orientation program. Hart House is a place for everyone. I’m excited to make people feel that they can be engaged with the University. And Hart House is a [great] start.”
Vivian also says she’s proud to represent Hart House, adding, “I can’t wait. I love U of T. [This is] my first campus job. It’s a great honour.”
What’s the first thing she plans to say to new students? “It’s okay to feel stressed but don’t miss out. You’ll always find yourself a place, like I did for myself. I found a place at Hart House.”